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First time visit
Posted by: RichNH (
Date: August 06, 2011 09:48AM

Hi all, well the time is almost at hand for our first ever visit to your island. Arriving next Wednesday and staying at a villa on Guana Bay for a week. I don't know about the rest of you but I AM EXCITED. LOL

Any last minute hints? Any activities, festivals, events or anything else I should know about? Can't wait.

A few questions:
Anyone know if my TracFone will work on the island?

Is there someplace I can pick up a road map that is comparable to a US road map (not like these various maps I see that show the whole island with roughly drawn in roads).

Does anyone have any opinion as to whether it would be better to purchase snorkel sets before we come and bring them with us or rent them down there? How much would rentals typically cost?

Should I bring bug repellent? We are planning on bringing sunscreen.

Do many places take American Express Traveler's checks?

Thanks for any help you can provide.


Re: First time visit
Posted by: RichNH (
Date: August 06, 2011 10:05AM

Oh, another question: Does anyone know of any automobile clubs there affiliated with AAA?

Re: First time visit
Posted by: pat (
Date: August 06, 2011 10:40AM


Don't know how much help this will be but here goes....

Re: AE TCs, we bring them ALL the time and I still consider it to be the safest way to transport cash without the concerns of carrying green cash,and we've only had one problem in all our forty years. We ate at Maximo's at Porto Cupecoy last April and they would NOT accept them. But a few words to the wise - travelers checks are easily cashed at the casinos or major grocery stores with photo id. Gas stations as a rule do NOT accept anything but CASH. We bring hundred dollar denominations and use them primarily for dinners, groceries, and shopping expeditions, usually ending up with enough cash for the next day without actually worrying about breaking a check but that said, a lot of people are more comfortable with smaller denominations. I can't stand writing my names all those times....grinning smiley And in conjunction with the TCs, we usually bring two credit cards, one for our rental car and hotel imprint and the other kept in our safe for emergencies, should they arise and then about $500. in cash in smaller denominations for tips and drinks and settling in cash. We don't use the ATMs because over the years there have been a lot of problems reported although I know many people today depend on CCs and ATMs.

I don't know that much about Guana Bay beyond the surf there can be rough so I'm not sure the snorkeling in that area would be any good. That said, take a ride to Dawn Beach, Orient, Rouge or Mullet and you'll have some of the better island snorkeling, or so I'm told. My daughter and SIL always bring their masks and fins with them but I know they can be rented, usually by the day or the hour. But again, if you're already shipping know your own gear.

Never used a Tracphone but I'm doubting it will work there. Most people will rent there island cell phone from Sharon, Queen of St. Maarten - great rates and incredibly good service and they work on both sides of the island.

If you're bringing sunscreen you're probably shipping luggage so yes, I'd bring a Deet based repellent with me. You can easily get both on the island but if you're already shipping stuff, might just as well bring it from home and save yourself having to look for it on the island. The worst times of day for critter bites is usually late afternoon and early evening and the little buggers can do a real number on your ankles. I also keep the OFF towelettes in my purse and beach bag jic I need them during the day. If it's breezy you won't have as much of a problem but if it's humid, look out!!

You can pick up a fairly decent road map at Rima's or the Shipwreck Shops if you're sure you're going to need one. We find SXM to be a small and relatively easy island to explore as long as the traffic isn't real heavy and when it is, we generally turn around and head in the opposite direction and eventually we get to where we had hoped to get to - and even if it takes us a little longer, the exploring is usually worth the effort. It's amazing the incredible places we've discovered 'by mistake'.

My one warning is leave nothing in your car, not even locked in the trunk or glove compartment, if it's of any importance to you. Sadly, the big island negative is that car break-ins have become a bit of an island 'cottage industry' and it can happen in minutes when a car is left in a convenient spot. We are usually told by our rental company to always keep the car locked, except when we are at the beach - saves the creeps who would the damage they might inflict on your car if they have to break the locks first to check it out.

And likewise, if your rental has a room safe, it really is a smart move to keep your cash and jewelry in it.

Have a wonderful trip....we go every year once or twice a year and have for a long time - it's a great island with nice people, beautiful beaches, incredible food and a place where, with a little bit of caution and good sense, you can have an awesome time.


smiling smileysmiling smiley

Re: First time visit
Posted by: Barbara1 (Moderator)
Date: August 06, 2011 11:07AM

hi Rich
I think pat covered most of what you asked.
here is the web site for cell phone for the Queen of SXM.


I recommend her too.

If your tracphone does work, you will pay roami9gn costs and it woudl be quite expensive.

There are no AAA affiliates here.

Enjoy your trip


Re: First time visit
Posted by: RichNH (
Date: August 08, 2011 06:05AM

Thank you both! I have to check out this concept of shipping things down there for the next time we go! :-)

The advice about the car is especially appreciated. The person renting us the villa we are staying at told us she has "The club" in the place. Looks like it'll be used instead of the door locks!.


Re: First time visit
Posted by: pat (
Date: August 08, 2011 10:30AM


Years ago the car rental agency we use offered The Club and then later an auto transmission lock, both of which kept the car from going anywhere, but sadly, it didn't prevent B&Es of the glove compartment and the trunk and it didn't prevent batteries and spare tires from 'disappearing' so it really is a smart move to keep nothing in your car in the first place and locking the car when it's parked, other than at the beaches, is a pretty good idea, too. Since the beach break-ins are so prevalent leaving them empty and unlocked does at least save the agency the cost of lock repairs.

Don't know exactly what you mean by 'shipping' things but, depending on your airline carrier, it's probably a lot less expensive and easier to ship an extra suitcase with them than it is to depend on UPS or Fedex International services. And don't forget, everything you want or need can be purchased easily on the island if you don't want to pack it from home.

Enjoy your trip and please, be respectful and then some of the surf at Guana. We've always viewed it as a beautiful location in its isolation but have always been concerned over the fury it's displayed the few times we've actually gone there.


smiling bouncing smileysmiling bouncing smiley

Re: First time visit
Posted by: double-D (
Date: August 08, 2011 05:22PM

I like your spirit...First Timer...already talking return!!!
All of the above are "seasoned sxm'rs"...Do as much as you can...or listen to the sand!!...Have a blast!!

Re: First time visit
Posted by: WOW (
Date: August 09, 2011 09:09AM

You sound very excited. It's great you are renting a car. As a result, you will get a real feel forthe island!!!

Re: First time visit
Posted by: RichNH (
Date: August 09, 2011 08:21PM

As they say out west, YEEEEE HAW! I will ask the car rental agency (Thrifty) as to thier advice as to whether the car should be locked or not. I alledgedly have access to the club, we'll know in less than 24 hours.

Re: First time visit
Posted by: RichNH (
Date: August 15, 2011 09:04AM

Just figured I'd check in, this place is great! Having a great time! Thanks for all the helpful hints.

Re: First time visit
Posted by: RichNH (
Date: August 24, 2011 09:31PM

Well we had a good visit and were sorry to leave. We stayed in a villa in Guana Bay ( and it was a very nice place indeed. Once we figured out the basic road system it wasn't too bad getting around the island, only got stuck in traffic twice in Phillipsburg :-).

We did a beach a day, Orient Bay, Pinel Island, Copecoy, Great Bay beach, Long Bay beach, Plum beach, Maho beach. All of them had their own attractions.

We were concerned when we first arrived about the masses of seaweed that had landed on Guana Bay beach and on the northeast shores. But when we visited Orient Bay we found the beach fairly clear of any seaweed, no more than I would normally expect to see on a beach. They did a great job keeping it clean!

With all the beach visiting we even found time to visit Marigot. Nice city.

We found the roads to be better on the French side but once you got used to them they were OK all over.

We learned some lessons too, Pay for everything you can in cash, the exchange rate is a killer. Strangely when we bought stuff on the Dutch side it didn't seem as expensive. Generally speaking a lot of places will accept dollar for Euro exchange, which worked out well for us. But if you use a credit card the exchange rate was something like $1.47 = E1.00. When we visited Pinel Island we didn't have enough cash to cover lunch (E32) so we paid by credit card. If we had the cash on us it would have cost us $32. Since we paid by credit card it cost us E32. So it actually cost a lot more. Another lesson we learned was if you don't have checked baggage, forget about buying duty free beverages. We're not very experienced travelers, I picked up some nice inexpensive Irish Whiskey and Scotch, but they were taken when we went through the security checkpoint coming home. We only had carry on luggage. Then they have the duty free stores inside the security zone, but if you have a connecting flight after you land in the US, you'll have to go through the security checkpoint again. The main point is to be aware of the regulations I guess.

It didn't matter a bit to us, lessons learned for the next time. Both my wife and I agree, we want to come back. We fell in love with that place.

Thanks again for all the advice.


Re: First time visit
Posted by: mikentara (
Date: August 25, 2011 12:29PM

WOW,sounds like you enjoyed!
Too bad about the booze being confiscated. We check our bag home for just that reason. Pinel is my favorite day! But it can be expensive for lunch.
Lessons Learned. Time to start planning your next trip!

Re: First time visit
Posted by: Barbara1 (Moderator)
Date: August 25, 2011 12:40PM

glad you had a good trip. sounds like fun. the Dutch side is always cheaper than the french side because we have a fixed dollar rate against the guilder.
the french side rate is always changing with the euro and the euro is quite a bad rate against the dollar right now.
so sorry about the booze..
too bad no one thought to tell TSA rules as of a couple of years ago.


Re: First time visit
Posted by: double-D (
Date: August 26, 2011 08:04AM

See you again next year??????

Re: First time visit
Posted by: SXMNorm (
Date: August 26, 2011 05:17PM

Glad you enjoyed yourselves. Thanks for the little trip report and the info you passed on for the next guys.

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